Empathy

Mo Birthdays Mo Problems

Trees at RaviniaMy recent birthday was filled with well wishes for happy returns of the day.  But I discovered that even on a seemingly special day, like a birthday, I still carried old issues with me.  The areas of my life that I struggle with did not miraculously disappear.  In fact, issues can be magnified on days where you feel you are supposed to be happy and having fun but find that you still bear the burden of your own suffering. Special days can’t be created by events written on a calendar, rather they manifest from the experience of personal growth and expansion that proceeds from the faithful tending of your inner state.

There are times when faking it till you make it just doesn’t hold up, and liberation from the tumult in your mind is more quickly gained by just being honest about what you’re going through. So the day after my birthday I decided to ask my friends on Facebook what they would say to someone who was having a hard time.  Their immediate compassion was a reminder to me that when you allow yourself to be where you are at and ask for what you need you are infinitely more likely to receive it:

1.This too shall pass… (Madeleine)

2.If you want someone to listen, I can do that. (Steve)

3.I am here for you…! (Libby)

4.Keep the faith. (Jessie)

5.Everything happens for a reason even if you may not know what that reason is at the time. (Ryan)

6.Want some pie? (Greg)

7.It gets better. (Kyle)

8.That sounds hard. I’m with you friend. (Melina)

9.Stay strong, it’s only gonna get better from here. (Adam)

10.I’m sorry this is happening to you right now. (Sheila)

11.I brought beer and pizza. (John)

12.I might not know what you’re going through but with faith everything will be alright! I love you and will keep you in my thoughts. (Mari)

If you think someone is having a difficult time, say one of these things to them!  A little compassion goes a long way.  If you knew someone was suffering what would you say to them?

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Life

Joke’s On Me

RenewToday I had the great pleasure of visiting the DMV for the first time since I had my license renewed five years ago. Everything really had been going smoothly until I was called up to take my new license picture.

I looked at the blue dot and smiled.  A few seconds after sitting down in the waiting area the man who had taken my picture called out to me saying, “One of your eyes was closed in the picture.”  I stood up to retake the picture when he said, “You can’t retake it, it says right here all you need is one eye to be open for a valid picture.  Just don’t do that while you’re driving.”

I sat back down in utter defeat.  My brow furrowed, all I could think about were the looks on the faces of all the people who I would have to hand my license to. I looked as if I was about to cry.

A couple of minutes passed and my license finished printing.  I walked up to the counter, and the man handed me my license with a big grin on his face.  The joke was on me.  He was kidding.  The picture was just fine, and I laughed out loud.

Life had caught me taking it too seriously.  Getting upset about a bad license picture, really?  Getting upset about the prospect of a bad picture on your license is like getting upset about the prospect of having to listen to smooth jazz during call waiting.  It will probably happen, and it can do nothing to hurt you.  And sometimes, as in my case, you get a mixed message about a situation, when everything is fine all along. Either way, make sure to laugh about it.

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Feminism

The Enemy Of Feminism

A ChainLabels often lead to misunderstandings but right now I feel like putting this label out there for greater clarity.  I’m a feminist. I’m a feminist in a big, unapologetic way.

Feminism is a movement that says all human beings are equal, are of equal worth, and have the inherent right to live free from the shackles of prescribed gender roles and the institutions which were built around them.

The energy described as femininity has long been oppressed in both men and women, leaving both at a disadvantage.  This created a history where women, and the feminine energy in men, continually suffered marginalization and disenfranchisement.

As a feminist I am free to say that I accept your life choices, whether you are a man or woman, and honor your individual journey.  Feminism, like other movements aligned with the natural progression of the universe towards justice, love, and peace, is at its core one more pointer towards the inherent unity of life.

One of the great aspects of feminism that I admire in the women and men who act upon its principles is the ability to look again.  Feminism takes a look at what our minds have created and asks whether or not they are true and useful.  It asks, is the manner in which I am treating and perceiving a person and her choices based upon the lens of my own life experience?  It asks, can I gain new insights by looking at human beings that seem different from me, free from the story my mind has already created about them?

The enemy of feminism isn’t men and it isn’t women.  The enemy of feminism isn’t ignorant bloggers who have large audiences that are quick to agree with their unexamined inflammatory judgments.  The enemy of feminism is not women who behave this way or that way.

What is the enemy of a person attempting to look upon other human beings in a new way, regardless of their previous assumptions?  That, of course, is the ego itself.    The ego is created when who you are gets all wrapped up with the thoughts that you have.  Strong opinions, stories, assumptions, and an us-versus-them mentality is the birthplace and breeding ground for the ego.  This is also why, for all the ego’s hatred of the meaning of feminism, it loves the label, it loves the thought that it can then use as fuel for its pseudo-life. If feminism is more than just a bundle of thoughts in your mind that you do or do not identify with, then you are experiencing its meaning beyond ego.

So before you go judging women and men for sharing their unique life experiences from their perspectives, laugh at the voice in your head.  If you can do that, the voice in your mind hasn’t become the ego, and you can still enact the principles of feminism by seeing the true worth of every human being from freshly unveiled eyes.

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Life

How To Perceive Your Own Best Interest

ACIM QuoteI do not perceive my own best interest. This notion use to torment me.  When I first began to see that every small action on my part had a ripple effect, beyond anything I could conceive of, I became worried and unsure of myself.

On a small scale this looks like not being sure which plans to commit to this weekend because it isn’t yet clear what will end up being the most enjoyable option.  On a larger scale this looks like questioning the motives behind a chosen career path, or not being sure if you should commit to a relationship.

What I hadn’t perceived after experiencing an awareness of the infinite effects of my small choices was what those consequences meant for my true best interest.  After a little bit of living it becomes clear that things that are bad at one time can turn out to have positive outcomes, just as something that was first good news can turn into suffering later on. But at a higher vantage point whatever journey the ripple of each action takes there is with it the movement of your highest potential unearthing itself through the inner erosion that takes place one situation after another.

According to A Course In Miracles understanding that you don’t perceive your best interest is an essential step in allowing miracles to occur.  Without this internal judgment of external situations your every moment can transform into the shape it was meant to realize, and with it enact your own best interest.

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Waiting

When Something Feels Wrong

TenebraeDo you ever feel restless, like you are just waiting for some type of change to happen? Do you ever feel like you want to do something more meaningful with your life or just want to feel differently than you do now?

If so, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is, you’re not alone!  The feeling of being disconnected, or just the slight sensation that not everything is as it should be, is a universal human experience.  The bad news is, there is nothing you can do to fix it.  Even if some exciting event were to take place in your life, afterwards you would just be back in the old familiar waiting stage.

The amount of time spent experiencing those pivotal life moments that are tangible and obvious pales in comparison to the waiting period.  There is more good news of course!  You can stop waiting.  To the mind that would seem an impossible task.  After all, it has so many thoughts about the future that it is waiting for, a future that will never come, because when it does it will no longer be the future, it will be the purgatory of the present.  That is the mind’s view of life.

To stop waiting means to stop asking your mind for permission to experience the reality of your present moment.  To stop waiting means to allow yourself to feel what happens when you become present and take away the momentum of your attention from the never ending thought ticker playing across the screen of your consciousness.

It may feel uncomfortable sometimes, but that is only the initial experience of the new layers you’re reaching as you delve just below the surface of your present moment experience.  Much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to let go and relax as they were being strangled by Devil’s Snare in order to make their way through to the sorcerer’s stone, there is more than the prickly uncomfortable surface experience.

Next time you feel out of alignment with your highest potential take a deep breath, lean into the initial uncomfortable feeling as you come into the present moment, and settle into what is real.  In this simple and transformative video Eckhart Tolle puts it much more eloquently:

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Life

“It starts with an ending.” – Oberst

CardinalOn my walk home from work I was stopped by the loud conversation of a beautiful red bird with a fellow in a nearby tree.

The next two days mark the end of my four-year journey as a Teaching Artist at a Chicago Public School, and I’ve been finding myself asked daily, “What do you want to do?”

As I stood staring at the radiant body of the red bird I thought, “What is the Cardinal meant to do?” and laughed in spite of myself.

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